The HONEST (and Ugly) Side of Success1
If you follow us on social media, receive our quarterly digital newsletters or attend one of our Teach My People events there will be a theme that emerges… SUCCESS!
This is for many reasons. Mainly, our students are doing great things! Becoming leaders in our community (members of the Frances P. Bunnelle Foundation Youth Board), third graders are reaching grade level by the end of their third grade year, seniors are graduating high school on time and alumni students are making the dean’s list in college. We love sharing these stories… because quite simply, we are so stinkin’ proud of our kids. And we know their families are also very proud of them!
The HONEST and ugly side of success is that for every success story there are mass amounts of stories about failure, times of tears, heart ache, and uncounted days that leave staff and families bewildered by negative decisions some students make.
Some things that just knock the wind out of you and make you question, “Why does Teach My People even exist? Are we truly making a difference?” I’d love to say that I only ask those questions a few times a year, but honestly, even after eleven years as the executive director, those doubts plague my mind almost every other month.
My first crushing day was about two months into my first year at the helm. Teach My People was about to witness our first student graduate high school. This wonderful young lady had everything in the world stacked against her… and when I say everything, I mean everything! She had beat the odds up to this point and was staring graduation in the face with unlimited possibilities for her future. She was smart, kind, and had persevered through so much.
And then it happened, three months before graduation. The odds beat her. She ran away from home and dropped out of school. We found her living in a hotel room. We tried to restart her on the right path but that was short lived. I’d love to say I know how she is doing now, but eleven years later I don’t know.
One of the hardest lessons learned that first year is that many students get scared off by success, and unfortunately we still see this in some of our students today. The reality is, if you have been fighting all your life to make it, or if you have experienced significant failure and trauma the past eighteen years, you will likely be extremely uncomfortable and debilitated by the “feeling” of success when it comes your way. In order to find comfort and peace you will revert back to what you know, trauma and chaos and the systems and “rules” that are familiar. I have come to find out that this is called Imposter Syndrome, which we can discuss at a further time.
As I share these realities with others, I sometimes hear in response “these failures make you appreciate the success even more.” But I can not let my heart go there. We are talking about kids’ lives. I am not willing to trade one kid's misery for another kid’s success.
What has given me solace is that Teach My People is about relationships and family. I do not know a single family that has it all together. Same with the family that is Teach My People. We have many kids, who by the world’s standards, have had great success and others who are still very much struggling. But we are family. So whether you are making the dean’s list in college or find yourself in life’s struggles… we are family… our doors are open… and you are loved!